A Heart to Heart Talk

A sad, cranky, unkempt, fifty-something woman has been coming to see me off an on over the past couple of years, more for the chocolates I keep on my desk, I suspect, and the contacts I have in local social services than for any wisdom I might inadvertently bestow. So it goes.
She has reason to be sad and cranky (as do we all, in our way.) She is awaiting a new heart, because her old one only pumps on one or two cylinders. Enough to make anyone cranky. In our last visit she was complaining how tired she was.
As I’ve done with her for years, I gently reminded her of the Freedom Exercise and the Peace Practice. “It takes a lot of energy to be cranky,” I said, or more gentle words to that effect. This lady is disgusted with her doctors, disgusted with her ex-husband, upset with her kids, mad at the neighbors, ill-tempered with the Food Bank, has absolutely no patience with the political system, the religious traditions, the educational system or the prevailing economic conditions.
“I know your heart condition tires you out,” I said, “but how you think— what you hold in consciousness– can also tire you out.”
“My heart is 99.999% of the problem,” she quickly replied.
“I would estimate it’s only 99.998% of the problem,” I countered, with a grin, trying to break through.
“No, it’s 99.999%” she insisted. She wouldn’t budge one/one-thousandth on this point. I stopped arguing. (I make a point of not arguing much in general, but most especially with people who need a whole new heart.)
My friend Christian Almayrac, the French physician who first articulated the Freedom Exercise, discovered in his medical practice that patients who adopted the Freedom Exercise as a daily discipline seemed to improve much faster than those who didn’t. It’s taken more than a hundred years, but finally there is a growing recognition among the general medical community that this is the case — people who are brave enough to make their mental happiness a priority heal quicker, go into remission more often, and need less medication.
“I’m a realist,” my cranky friend insisted. In our times, when someone claims they are a “realist” most often what they mean is that they are a “materialist”— if they can’t touch it, see it, taste it with their physical senses, that means it’s not “real.” No airy-fairy stuff— such as observing how we habitually feel and think — for such a “realist.” There are no inner planes, metaphysical realities, subtle dimensions for such a materialist/realist.
Alas, it also means there is no— dare I say it— heart in our living when we deny these inner “realities.” Our lives are then lead on the surface. It’s all outer skin. And if it’s all outer skin, we soon become cranky, ill-tempered, out of sorts because we are being chaffed all day long!
I suspect this poor women’s heart is in fact finding some kind of nourishment in our chats— other than the chocolates — or she wouldn’t keep coming back. We do want to hear that our happiness is important, our peace is important, on a daily basis, even if our ingrained, outer cognitive structures are not yet ready to accept such simple good news.
We do affect each other, even when we aren’t trying, on levels we can’t even guess at. After the lady left, my heart felt heavy, and it hurt.

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